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Fadi El Khatib (LIB)
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Fadi El Khatib announces return to Lebanon national team

BEIRUT (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - He is back. More than a year after announcing his retirement from national team duty, Fadi El Khatib, also known as the Tiger, has confirmed his return to the Cedars in a bid to restore Lebanon’s status as one of the elite teams in Asian basketball.

Fadi is perhaps the most iconic Lebanese player in history, and he is certainly a legend of sorts for Asian basketball fans everywhere. The 1.98m wingman first played internationally in the FIBA Asia Championship 2001, where he helped the Lebanese shock the content by finishing a strong second behind perennial powerhouse China. Fadi averaged 22.4 points per game in that tournament, establishing his reputation as an prolific offensive weapon.

He would go on to play for Lebanon on a consistent basis, culminating in appearances at the FIBA Basketball World Cups of 2002, 2006 and 2010. He last played at a FIBA Asia Championship in 2009, where Lebanon finished among the top four. Fadi has missed out on three FIBA Asia Championships (2011, 2013, 2015), though he did see action in the FIBA Asia Cup 2012 and this year’s FIBA Asia Champions Cup for Al Riyadi Beirut.

“I received a call from National Team manager Yasser El Hajj, who asked me about the possibility of returning back to the National Team,” Fadi says. “And my answer was positive.”

El Khatib has seen action in the Chinese Basketball Association and is currently playing for Homenetmen in the Lebanese Basketball League. He continues to be among the competition’s best players, averaging 24.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest as his club remains unbeaten in five games. He is already 38 years old, though, and with many up-and-coming players climbing the ranks for Lebanon, Fadi’s role may be a little diminished compared to years past, where he would be expected to carry the lion’s share of the load for the Cedars. In that regard, he is keeping a modest goal for himself and the national team.

“My first step is to participate in the WABA Championship and work hard on helping my team win the tournament, which is a qualifier to FIBA Asia Cup 2017,” Fadi says. “That will be our aim.”

Not surprisingly, many Lebanese hoop nuts were elated at this development.

El Khatib and the rest of the Lebanon national team will first play at the WABA Championship 2017, which will take place in Amman, Jordan from 29 January to 2 February.